Pink Ladies launch ‘Covid, Cancer and You’ campaign

A local support group has launched a campaign to ensure that cancer is not the forgotten C during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Friday, 19th March 2021, 10:36 am
Pictured during the launch of the Covid, Cancer and You Project at Free Derry wall are Sabrina Lynch, Old Library Trust, Colum Eastwood MP, Dervla Collins, Pink Ladies, the Mayor of Derry and Strabane Colr. Brian Tierney, Donna McCloskey, TRIX Neighbourhood management team, Michelle McLaren, Pink Ladies and Orla Robinson BBHF and Team Saoirse. DER2110GS – 014

Pink Ladies Cancer Support Group launched the ‘Covid, Cancer and You’ campaign earlier this week to remind people that screening services are operating as normal.

The support group also want to encourage anyone who notices any changes in their body to see their GP.

Michelle McLaren, development worker at the Pink Ladies, said that many people are concerned about attending hospital appointments or even their GP during the pandemic.

However, she said it was vital screening appointments were kept and if anyone has concerns about changes to their body she urged them to seek medical advice.

“People are still being invited for their screening and it is incredibly important they attend. Others may have had to have oncology appointments or appointments for scans cancelled due to the pandemic.

“We would urge people to be pro-active if they have not received a new appointment. Follow it up, don’t just sit and wait for a new appointment to come in through your door, especially if they have been waiting more than six months for a new date.”

Michelle said that while everyone is aware that the NHS has been incredibly busy during the pandemic, people with concerns about their health should be pro-active in seeking medical advice and appointments.

“There is most certainly going to be a pandemic of other health issues once the Covid pandemic is over. There are huge concerns about mental health issues as a result of the pandemic, but there will also be an increase in people being diagnosed with other health conditions because they have not gone to their GP or followed things up as they normally would have.”

Michelle drew attention to the experience of former Girls Aloud member Sarah Harding, who was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer, who has said it was the pandemic that put her off seeking medical attention.

“I don’t know if the outcome would be any different for her, but the earlier breast cancer is diagnosed, the earlier it can be treated.

“Early detection is key and you can still go and see your GP and ask to be referred. A lot of people think they can only go and see their doctor if it is an emergency. If you find a lump on your body or you are genuinely concerned about changes to your body, it is an emergency. It may not seem like an emergency but it is a new change and it needs to be looked at.

“If someone fell off a trampoline and broke their leg, they would go over to A&E. Why not see about underlying things as well, things that you know aren’t right or changes to your body that are a cause for concern. I’m not saying that it may be cancer, but it may be something that is affecting your health.”

Michelle said that hospital screening appointments are set up to manage the risks of Covid, adding “you couldn’t be in safer hands, so please do not have a fear about attending if you are sent an appointment.

“Don’t think screening or any concerns you have about your health can wait until after the pandemic, because no one thought it was going to last this long and we don’t know how much longer it will go on.”

As part of the campaign, Pink Ladies are focusing on another C that is often overlooked - carers.

“Carers are part of the forgotten. They have felt the loss of support during the pandemic and they have found themselves in a very isolating and lonely place.

“Many people have also found themselves becoming a carer for the first time during the pandemic and it is adding extra pressure to them on top of maybe having to work from home or homeschool their children.”

The support group are particularly focusing on young carers and held a young carers recognition evening earlier this week.

“We gave the young people advice about taking care of their own physical and mental health, signposted them to support services available in the community and also emphasizing the benefits of chatting to someone outside their family unit.

“It has been particularly tough for young carers, who also have had to deal with doing schoolwork and studying at home. It may have been hard to find the time to do that at home if they have caring responsibilities.

“We have linked in with the Bogside and Brandywell Health Forum who can help them with that, and also with Childline. It is important to remind carers that they matter as well.”

There was also an online event for the Pink Ladies adult carers group, HUGS, which gave adult carers not familiar with the group an opportunity to find out more about what they do.

A representative from Carers NI also attended the online event to signpost and provide advice.

“Carers are so important. They are the unsung heroes and walk in the shadows of the people they care for, so we need to ensure that carers are not forgotten,” Michelle said.

To find out more information about the Covid, Cancer and You campaign or to get in touch with the Pink Ladies Cancer Support Group contact 02871414004 or 07710025494. Alternatively email [email protected],com